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As Jews and Arabs Observe Holidays, Jerusalem and Nablus Reported Quiet

The Jerusalem area was quiet, the West Bank city of Nablus was under curfew and disturbances erupted in the Gaza Strip on Sunday as Jews and Arabs each observed their own religious holidays with a high potential for confrontation.

For Jews it was Tisha B’Av, a day of fasting to mourn the destruction of the Second Temple. Moslems began the first day of the four-day feast of Id el-Adha, which marks the end of the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

The mosques on the Temple Mount, the third holiest site of Islam, were packed. To avoid trouble, police kept Jews away, infuriating the observant, who prayed at the Western Wall, the last remnant of the Temple’s ramparts.

Geula Cohen, firebrand of the ultranationalist Tehiya party, objected to the ban. She demanded that Police Minister Haim Barlev search the Temple Mount for contraband firearms.

An Arab couple was arrested Friday for trying to smuggle gasoline bombs onto the Temple Mount. Cohen said that was proof weapons were illegally preset at the site.

But Barlev said after touring the Old City that it was quite secure for worshipers and tourists. He said that after nearly eight months of Palestinian unrest, police morale remains high.

There was rioting in the Old City and parts of East Jerusalem most of last week. At times, it spilled over into western Jerusalem and the northern suburbs, where Jewish neighborhoods abut Arab villages.

CALM RESTORED IN OLD CITY

But calm was restored by Sunday, though not without tension, as reinforced police patrolled the Old City and the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

Preventive measures were taken in both Jerusalem and the administered territories. About 100,000 Palestinians in Nablus, the largest city in the West Bank, found themselves under curfew for the first time in recent months.

Disturbances broke out in Gaza following noon prayers Sunday. Israel Defense Force soldiers, stoned by residents of the Jabalya refugee camp, shot two Palestinians in the legs.

Curfews were clamped on Jabalya and on Beit Hanun village, north of Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled Sunday to uphold a lower court decision allowing the IDF to confiscate a private apartment in the West Bank Arab village of Halhoul to use as an observation post.

It is the first time the army has taken over an Arab home for military purposes. The owner, Mohammad Abu Rian, has until Wednesday to move.

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